ANAHEIM — Matt Coronato will not be joining the Calgary Flames for their stretch run, as one of the club’s most prized prospects has decided to return for one more year of college hockey.
But the 19-year-old Harvard standout made it crystal clear he has no intention of being the next Adam Fox by playing anywhere other than Calgary when he’s ready to make that jump.
"Ever since the day I was drafted, I’ve been grateful to be drafted by the Flames," said the Flames’ 13th selection overall at last summer’s pick 'em party.
"I’ve learned a lot about them since that time and I have no other intention other than to play for the Flames.
"It’s a goal of mine to feel and be ready as soon as possible to make that jump, but right now I’m just looking to develop and see where we are next year."
It's a pretty good chance where he’ll be next year at this time is Calgary, where he’ll almost certainly round out the season with the Flames.
Until that time, he’ll be in Boston, where he’ll look to build on a stellar rookie season that saw the 19-year-old rack up 18 goals and 36 points in 34 games, including an overtime goal to clinch the ECAC championship, sending his school to hockey’s March Madness tourney.
Coronato informed the school and the Flames of his decision this week, after extensive conversations with all parties involved.
"I was able to spend a good amount of time talking to my family, and thinking about everything, and we decided it’s best for me to go back another year and continue to develop," said the scorer from Greenlawn, N.Y.
"There are a lot of good resources and it’s a great spot to continue developing, getting stronger and faster to play at the next level."
The next level is unquestionably within reach, as he was one of the top freshmen in college hockey, building on a skillset that saw him lead the USHL with 57 goals in 59 games the previous season.
"From a hockey standpoint, it’s 1,000 per cent the right thing, so he’s going back — we support him 100 per cent," said Flames GM Brad Treliving, who had several discussions with Coronato and his advisors leading up to his decision.
"Ultimately, he’s got to make a decision, but we talk about it, and the pros and cons, and what the development team will do with him. You can’t bulls--t the player: Here’s what it looks like."
And what it looks like is this is an uber-talented right winger with the sort of offensive upside the organization hasn’t seen since Johnny Gaudreau dominated through a similar path.
"It’s not 'if' he’s coming, it’s 'when' he’s coming,” said Treliving, who was asked the day he drafted Coronato if he was confident the player would consider playing in Calgary, as opposed to playing out four years of college eligibility and becoming a free agent.
"At the end of the day, you go through these every time and you never know 100 per cent every time," he said.
"You have to do your homework and believe what they are telling you. I’ve had lots of conversations with Matt and his advisors — and again this week — and that’s not a concern of mine. I fully believe he’s going to be on the Flames.
"Like every kid, the wrong move is just to take him, so you eliminate the risk. But if they’re not ready to play, it’s the wrong move for the kid and it’s a selfish move.
"You have to do what is right for the kid and ultimately that’s what’s right for Matt."
It's a sensitive topic in Calgary. The Flames drafted Fox in 2016, only to see him star at Harvard before essentially forcing Calgary to trade his rights after it was clear the New Yorker would otherwise play out his four years and sign with his beloved Rangers.
Last year, Fox won the Norris Trophy and is the target of boos every time he touches the puck at the Saddledome.
Coronato will join the Flames for his first development camp this summer, where staffers will be able to further help him prepare for his inevitable next step.
"It’s going to be my first time in Calgary, so I’m really excited to get up there in mid-July," said Coronato, who will then get another crack at the World Junior tourney rescheduled for August in Edmonton.
"Super-excited. It was really tough to have it cancelled. We had that group together for a month and only got to play one game. Really disappointing. That said, my first international experience was really special."
Coronato won’t be eligible to play in the Christmas version, giving him a chance to focus entirely on his year with the Crimson.
"There was definitely a bit of a learning curve early, but I started getting confidence and comfortable as the season went on," he said.
"It helped to play with great players all year."
Treliving and his staff kept a close eye on Coronato all season and continue to believe he can be an elite NHL player in due time.
"He’s everything, combined with a dog-on-a-bone mentality," said Treliving of the 5-foot-10, 183-pound right winger, who racked up six points in the two do-or-die games he starred in at the ECAC tourney.
"He’s got a scorer’s mentality, a high hockey sense and skill, he’s ultra-competitive, he plays in every situation. That’s what we saw when we drafted him and what we saw this year.
"He had a good start and a great finish, to the point in the ECAC tournament he was a dominant player. Now it’s a critical summer for him in terms of training."